Holiness Principle #2 – The Christian is called to be separate from worldliness.
2 Corinthians 6:14-18
14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?
16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
17 “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”
18 “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (NIV)
First, let there be no misunderstanding by what is meant by the word “separate.” Some might think that this means we must withdraw ourselves from society and live our lives in a monastery or a convent. That is not what is meant by the word “separate.” And others might think that this means we should shun all modern technology and conveniences and go back to a pioneer lifestyle, like the Amish. Although this seems attractive at times, like when everything you have breaks, that is not what is meant by the word “separate” either. The word “separate” here is the Greek word “aphorize”, and it means to “set off by a boundary.” If you look closely at the word, you can see our word “horizon” in it. In other words, we as Christians are called to have a set of godly convictions which sets up a boundary to separate us from the ungodly activities which occupy the attention of the rest of the world. With this is in mind, let’s look at 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 and understand the nature of the separation from this world which the Christian is required to have.
We often hear the first part of verse 14 lifted somewhat out of context and applied to the matter of marriage. It is usually quoted from the KJV. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (KJV) We have been told that this means that a Christian should not marry a person who is not a Christian. But that is just one application of the underlying principle found in verses 14-18. Let’s look at this idea in context.
The first part of this underlying principle is that there are some things that just do not mix. Just like oil and water do not mix physically, there are also things which do not mix spiritually. This first idea is found in these verses in a series of five questions that Paul poses to the reader. We see these five questions in verses 14-16. Let’s look at these five questions and determine how the Christian should answer them.
The first question asks us: What do righteousness and wickedness have in common? If you as a believer desire to have the righteousness of Christ, how much room is there in your life for wickedness?
The second question asks us: What fellowship can light have with darkness? It is impossible for light and darkness to commingle. This is true physically. But this is also true spiritually. Listen to the words of Jesus from John 3:19-21 “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (NIV) It is impossible for the believer to love the darkness one day and the light the next day.
The third question asks us: What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? The word “belial” is a Hebrew word that means “worthless” and “lawless”. In this context, the reference here is probably to Satan. So ask yourself this question: Do you think Jesus and Satan ever get together to talk about the way things used to be and try to find a common ground that they can both agree on? I don’t think so. There is no harmony between Jesus and Satan. In fact, the word “harmony” here is the Greek word “sumphonesis.” It is where our word “symphony” comes from. Can you imagine Jesus and Satan trying to play the same music together?
The fourth question asks us: What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? I’m afraid that the answer to this question in America today is “far too much”. In most circumstances it is impossible to pick out a believer from an unbeliever because we watch the same movies, drink the same beer, have the same cable TV channels in our home, laugh at the same jokes, share the same gossip, listen to the same music, wear the same clothes. I think that I must paraphrase Paul’s question to make it make sense to us today: “What should a believer have in common with an unbeliever?”
The fifth question asks us: What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? When the Antichrist erects an image of himself in the temple in Jerusalem, it will be called the “abomination of desolation”. There is no room in the temple of the living God for even just one idol.
The second part of the underlying principle is to define the people of God as the temple of God. This is seen in verse 16. “For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (NIV) Now we just answered the question, “What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?” (NIV) So, if we are the temple of God, how much room is there for idols in our life?
Let’s ask ourselves a question here. What exactly does it mean for the Christian to be the temple of God? This question is not addressed specifically here because Paul has already written to the Corinthian church before about this issue. Listen to what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (NIV) Notice three things from these verses.
First, the Christian’s body is a temple of the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit dwells in you. We are told in 1 Kings 8:11 that when Solomon dedicated the first temple to God, the glory of God came and filled the temple. “And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled his temple.” (NIV)
Second, the Christian should consider himself a slave to God because he was purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ.
And third, and the most important point as related to our discussion, we serve God spiritually based on what we do with our bodies physically. If you were to look back at verses 14-18 in 1 Corinthians 6 you would find the context of this passage relates to the sin of going into a prostitute.
Things are much more complicated today than they were for the nation of Israel. When the Old Testament writers warned the people about worshipping idols, they generally meant idols – things made out of wood or stone or metal. Today, we think we are far too sophisticated to ever think of worshipping such an idol. So instead, we have set up other idols, and these new idols we have set up in our lives are far more insidious than the idols of stone and wood precisely because they cannot necessarily be seen with the physical eye. They require spiritual vision to perceive the fact that they are idols.
Look at the end of verse 16. “As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (NIV) Notice the relationship that God wishes to have with each and every Christian. There are four distinct ways that God wants to relate to you.
First, God wishes to live with you. There are two applications here. God wants to be part of your family, live in your house, so to speak. There is an old story about the day Jesus came to live in my house. How there were things on the coffee table that needed to be done away with, rooms that needed to be cleaned out, and rooms that were locked up that needed to be opened. But God also wants to live inside you. Not only to be part of your family, but to be part of you.
Second, God wants to walk with you. That doesn’t mean he wants to get an hour of exercise with you every day. That means he wants to accompany you as you live your life every day.
Third, God wants to be your God. Let me remind you of the first commandment here, from Exodus 20:3 “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” (KJV)
And fourth, God wants you to be his people. Now what exactly does it mean to be God’s people? In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel was frequently referred to as “God’s people.” But what about for us today? Let me share a couple of verses with you from Titus 2:13-14 “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” (KJV) This verse describes us a “peculiar” people. That word does not mean strange, it means “one’s own special.” We are to be a special people belonging only to God.
The third part of this underlying principle is that there is action required on our part to prepare ourselves to be the temple of God. This is seen in verses 17-18. “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (NIV) Notice that there is a three-fold command found in verse 17. And also notice how these three commands parallel the experience of the nation of Israel.
We are commanded to come out from among the unbelievers. Just as the nation of Israel was called out the nation of Egypt, so are believers called out of the wickedness of the world.
We are commanded to separate ourselves from unbelievers. Again, just as the nation of Israel was called to separate themselves from the pagan nations in Canaan, so are believers called to separate ourselves from the wickedness of the world.
We are commanded to touch no unclean thing. And once more, just as the nation of Israel was commanded to refrain from being defiled by things which God considered unclean, so are believers called from defiling themselves with the wickedness of the world. This word “unclean” occurs over 200 times in the Bible. Many of these references are found in the book of Leviticus and deal with animals that were not to be eaten, dead carcasses, leprosy, and bodily discharges. That is not quite what Paul has in mind here. I believe that idea Paul has in mind here are the words of the prophet Ezekiel in Ezekiel 7:19-20 “They will throw their silver into the streets, and their gold will be an unclean thing. Their silver and gold will not be able to save them in the day of the LORD’s wrath. They will not satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs with it, for it has made them stumble into sin. They were proud of their beautiful jewelry and used it to make their detestable idols and vile images. Therefore I will turn these into an unclean thing for them.” (NIV)
Now, let me ask you – and me – a question. Do you think God would be pleased to walk with you in the life you lead right now? Would he like to go where you have gone this week? Would he like to see what you have seen? Would he like to hear what you have heard? We say that our conscious doesn’t convict us of the impure activities in our life. But our conscious doesn’t convict us because we haven’t spent the time we need in God’s word establishing in our mind and our heart what is right and wrong.
By Berean Husband